Interview: Amahl Abdul-Khaliq

Photo Credit: Vashni Balleste

Photo Credit: Vashni Balleste

Amahl Abdul-Khaliq is AF THE NAYSAYER - a flourishing producer in the electronic and instrumental hip-hop world. Within the last two years this New Orleans-based, Los Angeles-bred producer has dispersed his atmospheric productions across 70 cities and at over 300 shows in the US alone. His sound has been categorized as “electrifying soul-hop” whose core is best described by Atlanta producer DISTAL as, “Layered, intelligent design with a simple and easily digestible delivery.”

His collaborations in New Orleans have led him to become the ambassador for Red Bull Music Academy, as well as founder of beatmaker showcase Dolo Jazz Suite. AF has toured with artists such as Durazzo, Prism House, and Sports Coach, and has opened for Glitch Mob, Om Unit, Quantic, Lapalux, Young Fathers, and the 2016 Mad Decent BUKU Party (feat: Yellow Claw, NGHTMRE, Louis The Child, and Jazz Cartier), just to name a few. AF also kept busy by lending production on “Mackerel Sky” (feat. RoQy TyRaiD) from Billboard-charting album “RNDM” by Mega Ran, and remixing other artists such as the single release “Friendly (AF THE NAYSAYER Remix)” by Taiwanese hip hop group Juzzy Orange and Boyfriend's "Company Ink," which was featured on Spotify’s 2016 Fresh Finds playlist.

AF’s upcoming solo EP consists of a conceptual hip hop album for a faux-video game soundtrack “Armor Wing Battle Unit,” and collaborative postmodern hip hop EP with rapper Darby Capital, “Courtney Love Love.” Both show that there is no end in sight for AF THE NAYSAYER and his eclectic sound. If you haven’t jumped into AF THE NAYSAYER’s world yet, now is the perfect time to become part of the experience.

We had the privilege of interviewing Amahl about his journey into veganism as well as his perspectives on social justice. 

Photo Credit: Vashni Balleste

Photo Credit: Vashni Balleste


BVR: How did you first learn about the concept of veganism?
A: I knew about vegetarianism as a child growing up in Los Angeles, but I learned the concept of veganism in middle school. I was really interested in martial arts, specifically in Shaolin Kung Fu, and they [the monks] are very much dietary and spiritual vegans. Also, some of my favorite BMX riders are practicing vegans, so I would attribute my discovery of veganism to Kung fu and BMX—two sub-cultures.
BVR: Why did you decide to become vegan?
A: I was vegetarian for a long period of time, and originally it wasn’t for animal rights or health. As a practicing Muslim, I had a lot of dietary restrictions, and didn’t eat that much meat. I was vegetarian for so long that I figured that the next step logical step was veganism. I was vegan for two years before reverting back to old habits, but at that time I wasn’t focused on my diet and didn’t have a reason to be vegan. A few years later, as my goals and ambitions became clearer, I decided to give veganism another try. Now that I have more clarity and purpose, I have set goals for myself, and I’m never changing back.
BVR: As a black person, how does race impact your veganism?

A: Honestly, I don’t really feel like it does. I’m actually not close to the vegan community itself. To me, it’s just a solo spiritual journey that I’m following, and I often feel like an alien. I live in southern Louisiana, where everything’s filled with meat and deep fried, but I do have some friends who are black and vegan. I don’t necessarily think they influence me or I influence them, though. It’s purely coincidence.

I’m trying to do a better job connecting and networking with my fellow black people: to let them know what I’m doing and how I’m trying to make change through my diet. In my own mind I feel that I’m eating more like our ancestors, and I’m trying to get more people to increase their fruit and vegetable intake for health reasons. In truth, though, I have to take care of myself before I take care of other people.
BVR: What would you tell someone who thinks veganism is a “white person’s” thing?
A:  I can’t really blame someone for thinking that. The media’s stereotypical “vegan” is an upper-middle class, health conscious white male or female. It’s been embedded in our brains for so long that we believe skin tone and social class is what makes up a vegan. It’s not, of course. It's very similar to the way people associate being educated with being white. It’s not really a white or black issue, it’s a lifestyle, and it's for anyone willing to work toward it.

Like, if you’re black and speak standard vernacular English, you might hear “Oh, you talk like a white person.” All of that is slave mentality, and it's a major problem in modern America. High vegetable and fruit intake has been the diet of black and brown people for centuries. The main thing holding people back from embracing so many things is the mindset that things are "white" or "black": that's what we have to overcome. There are plenty of black vegans who are raw foodists out there, and the fact that you have this website shows that there’s definitely outreach. More black celebrities are embracing veganism than ever, and it’s currently trendy to be vegan or vegetarian. I think it’s all about a change in perspective, and we need to be able to recognize the difference between something that’s positive in all people, and something that the media portrays as positive.